Sociocracy: A perspective

In case you’re stumbling upon this on your own here in discourse, this is an email from Noah Compo who I was put in contact previously as discussed in this post by way of my 10+ year connections with North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO). Here he provides some of his own background and informative of the positionality of Sociocracy to grassroots organizing, emergent governance, and folks who regularly practice decentralization.

" Hi Jojo!

Thanks for reaching out! I’m very excited for you all and have a genuine appreciation for the thoughtful process you’re undertaking to decide what kind of governance/decision-making systems you will implement.

I’ve penciled in March 9th at 9:00am on my calendar and can plan to attend that meeting. Let me know if there are other details I should know about this.

I would love to hear more about the project you’re working on. If it’s possible, could you send me a short description of the vision and where you are in the process?

For y’all’s context, I can tell you a little bit about myself and where I’m coming from regarding sociocracy. This upcoming summer marks my 10 year anniversary of living in (and now working for) housing cooperatives. In that time I’ve experienced many different versions of collective decision-making. Some have emphasized efficiency, others inclusion; some have emphasized rigid structures, others flexibility and freedom of expression. Some have been a joy to participate in and some have left everyone feeling burnt out and frustrated. My exposure to sociocracy began 2-3 years ago, and I largely see it as an attempt to piece together bits of wisdom and practices from other established collective decision-making models into one holistic system. I think there are pros and cons to this.

I appreciate what sociocracy is trying to do, but I have mixed feelings about the “branded” framework it lays over well-worn DIY and egalitarian community strategies. I also have mixed feelings about the for-pay consultant dynamic that seems to be encouraged by a lot of the strong proponents of sociocracy that I’ve encountered. In my mind, collective decision-making works best when the group involved has had some kind of hand in establishing their own norms, and something about sociocracy feels a bit too prescriptive. There are still lots of good insights and nuggets of wisdom embedded within sociocracy, but these didn’t necessarily originate from sociocracy, so I feel ambivalent about how sociocracy, both the systems and the “brand”, has grown in popularity in recent years. I share all of that just so you have a candid account of where I’m coming from, and you can decide if this perspective is helpful to where your group is in their process. We have attempted to incorporate elements of sociocracy here at SBSHC, to mixed results. I also participated in a 2-day Sociocracy For All facilitation training last summer (I believe it was also Ted who led these sessions), and I found some of it really useful and other pieces not so much.

I’m more than happy to share my experiences with you all and discuss your project and goals. Please let me know if you have any questions for me, or if we can confirm my attending your meeting on March 9th.

Thanks!

In cooperation,

-Noah "

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I would take a both-and approach to Sociocracy. If people need a framework, there it is. If people want to pay consultants to help them with it, great, there they are, but they are not mandatory. And if you want to roll your own, perhaps you can take Sociocracy as a kind of pattern language? Feeling in two minds makes a lot of sense to me in that way, though you can take both as positive in an appropriate context.

Simon

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That feels like what we’re landing on after our discussion with Noah today. People do seem to need a framework, but we can touch and go with it - taking what we like and leaving the rest. Ultimately, for decentralized governance to work, I believe we need to focus on orienting our contributors in facilitation and consensus models to have smoother goal and project-oriented meeting spaces. My next step is to reach out to folks at AORTA to explore their services to help us out. I don’t think we need to go at this alone!

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I’m here to hear AORTA’s response. Been following their work, hope they respond